What You Might Have Missed At 2017 World Pork Expo top stories Affecting Your Business

By Sara Brown

1. Do No Harm With NAFTA

“We export 23% to 24% of U.S. pork production,” said Steve Meyer, vice president of pork analysis for Express Markets Inc. Analytics, during a National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) press conference Thursday. Any disruption to current trade levels would dramatically overfill U.S. pork supplies and pressure domestic hog prices.

2. Grow Our Exports

Pork leaders are trying to develop bi-lateral trade agreements with Asian-Pacific countries that were originally in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) before it was nixed earlier this year. In an interview with AgDay, Ken Maschhoff, president of the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), says 60% of the world’s population lives in the Asian-Pacific area. “Bi-lateral trade agreements with about four countries, starting with Japan, are paramount for us,” Maschhoff said.

“We have Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam [that] are also large targets in that area,” Maschhoff said. “We do have an opportunity to get [U.S. pork into Vietnam] at a more affordable cost than a lot of other countries can.”

3. Secure Our Food Supply

The U.S. hasn’t had an outbreak of foot and mouth disease (FMD) since 1926—but the threat is no less today than it was then. An estimated 1 million pigs are on being transported each day in the U.S. If a FMD event occurred, quarantine areas would be established, possibly limiting animal movement.

Priority No. 1 for the next farm bill is creating a FMD vaccine bank, and establishing a plan for manufacturing large supplies of several strains of the vaccine. The U.S. needs the ability to ramp up vaccine production quickly if an outbreak occurs.

Priority No. 2 is making sure pork producers can still function if a foreign animal disease (FAD) situation is present. The Secure Pork Supply Plan, developed by the National Pork Board and USDA, intends to help pig farmers prepare and quickly respond if an FAD event occurs.

Basics of the plan would include implementing sound biosecurity protocols, using premise identification tags, keeping detailed production records and maintaining all necessary health papers and certificates. Producers would also understand safe movement of animals from farms in an FAD control area to harvest channels or to other production sites as long as the pigs have no evidence of disease.

4. Repositioning Pork's Message to Consumers

Consumers of today's pork are not like they were even five years ago. Bill Even, National Pork Board CEO says the big changes that require a new marketing plan are driven by the three M's:

1. Millennials: America’s largest generation has increasing buying power and makes buying decisions differently than its predecessor generations.

2. Mobile: The speed of communication and access to information fuels demand, requiring constant attention to new means of communication.

3. Multicultural: Currently 36% of the U.S. population is multicultural. The newest arrivals to the U.S. and their families will make up 50% of the population by 2050.

The new marketing strategy will be deployed early in 2018.

5. Find and Retain Quality Employees

Pork suppliers need workers. The National Pork Board and AgCareers survey found 24% of large pork companies are now paying more than $12.50/hr for employees with no experience. This is up dramatically since 2011.

Bonuses remain the top motivator used by all classes of hog producers to attract new employees. But some small and mid-sized producers are cutting back on bonuses and benefits. From 2011 to 2016, the percentage of small to mid-size producers offering medical benefits for employees dropped 16%. Instead, small and mid-size producers are using flexible hourly schedules to retain and motivate their staff.

With the increase in recordkeeping, pork producers are using job boards more frequently to find employees, and relying less on referrals or word of mouth.

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